Jancek to pick up where VanGorder left off

ATHENS - Not long after Brian VanGorder, the intense and demanding Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers coach of the Bulldogs from 2001-2004, left the program to become the Jacksonville Jaguars' linebackers coach, one of his former players at Grand Valley State, John Jancek, was named as his replacement.

"Coach VanGorder was my position coach (in college)," said Jancek. "He's a great coach. From the first year that Coach VanGorder got there, he and I hit it off and just continued to develop our relationship over the next 15 years."

Like another good friend of VanGorder's, Willie Martinez, Jancek is faced with a difficult task: he must replace a coach in VanGorder that is revered by the Bulldog faithful. While Martinez, who was given the role of Defensive Coordinator the day VanGorder left, will be the coach who's production will likely be compared quickly by the media and public, it will be Jancek that will take over the day-to-day workings with the linebackers.

"I knew Coach Martinez really well, and once Coach VanGorder left he said that he would like me to be a candidate for the position. He wanted me to consider the position, which obviously I was going to do. From that point everything happened really fast. I met with Coach Richt at the National Convention and then after that he flew me in to campus and we spent a couple days together, and I interviewed and everything went well," said Jancek.

"Obviously I was extremely excited to have the opportunity to meet with Coach Richt. His philosophies and what he believes in makes a lot of people feel very comfortable. I was a good fit right from the beginning – I would say," Jancek said.

Once hired by Richt, Jancek was able to sink his teeth into the situation at linebacker. It's a group that, admittedly, is one of the most talented on the team. Georgia may have lost Odell Thurman to the Cincinnati Bengals, but the rest of the linebackers are back – including one starter that sat last season out, Tony Taylor, and several hot-shot rookies and sophomores that seem ready to hit the big time.

"Our linebackers are very talented physically, but we have a lot of work to do with that group to establish our fundamentals. We have to continue to establish our identity at that position. We have a blend of some experienced guys along with some young players. There are some things I am concerned about. Tony Taylor didn't play last year, and he is going to be back. I know he is a great player, but obviously I want to see him perform once we get the pads on," said Jancek.

"Jarvis Jackson is returning in the fall because he had shoulder surgery this spring. Danny Verdun-Wheeler is a returning starter. We do have some experienced guys coming back – a couple of them are coming back off injuries, so we have to work through that. The rest of them are just young guys," he said.

"Dannell Ellerbe is an extremely talented young man. He can do a number of things for us defensively. We need to see how he is going to progress through the spring, and that will decide what direction we will go with him. He is an extremely gifted athlete – I will say that," Jancek concluded.

But the talent on the roster did nothing to intimidate Jancek or make him comfortable with where the Bulldogs were at talent-wise or with intangibles. Announcing his official arrival to football at Georgia, Jancek told a group of reporters huddled around him after the first day of practice that he was expecting more from the linebackers.

"I was happy to get one practice under my belt, but I'm not starry-eyed about coaching at the University of Georgia – football is still football. I'm not happy with the leadership of some of our older guys. We didn't get leadership from them today, and I let them know about it. This is an opportunity to establish yourself as a player," he said.

While giving notice to his new family on the field, Jancek was forced to be separated from his wife and children as he began coaching in Athens. The decision to take the job in Athens was a step up for Jancek in terms of prestige and money, but it also meant spending time away from his family. That side of Jancek, the father with a one-year old son, is starkly different than the one reporters saw that first day of spring practice. Jancek talked at length about his wife, and the decision to take the job in Georgia even though she would have to care for their children without her husband – albeit for a short period of time.

"The wives of coaches have to be extremely committed to the profession as the coach is. I am fortunate that I've got a great wife, and understanding wife who knows football and has been around it, and knows what to expect. She's been extremely supportive of this move and the decision from day one. The extra demands that are put on her as a mother with four young boys and having a husband who is a college football coach. She is aware of how family-oriented Coach Richt is at Georgia and that eased any issues she may have had," Jancek said.

Jancek made clear how important his family is to him and how being at Georgia, in the family-oriented atmosphere Richt has created, will be something he looks forward to.

"Probably the most challenging thing about this profession is the balance that you need to have between your career and your family. Here at Georgia – there is that balance," he said.

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